Q: I will be on New Zealand's South Island the last week in August and am looking for information on the best ski areas, heli-skiing trips, and lodging. I am having difficulty deciding between Queenstown and Wanaka. Thanks for the help.
Bill Ewing, Denver, Colorado
A: You'll find plenty of powder in either place, along with an impressive number of skiers racing through the freshies. These are two of the most popular ski areas on the South Island with good reason --everyone can find something of interest, from wide beginner slopes to mogul runs and back bowls. Not to mention the heli-terrain.
If I had to choose between the two, my slight preference would be for Wanaka. Aside from being less crowded than better-known Queenstown, Wanaka is home to the enormous, recently-renovated Treble Cone resort, which is famous for its predictable volume of dry, wispy flakes (this is the kind of snow you Rocky Mountains natives know and love). Early word is, this looks to be the best ski season they've had in years.
Heli-skiing happens in the Harris Mountains, where Harris Mountain Heli-Skiing http://www.heliski.co.nz/ offers one-day packages ranging from U.S. $250 to $350. For this you get a guide, a mountaintop meal, and three to seven of the best runs on the island. Each day they choose from 400 or so possibilities, setting you down in sheltered basins with up to 4,000 vertical feet of treeless downhill guaranteed to leave you schussing with a grin.